Killing Bono…

A film about band who knew U2 seems a pretty flimsy excuse for a film but then most rock films are pretty flimsy.
This blog is not about the film though, as I doubt I will ever get round to seeing it, it sounds like a pretty uninteresting project, yet another film about someone who knows someone famous and used to be in a band.
The blog is more about how the fuck did U2 pull it off? How the fuck did they end up being this huge band that no one seems to really love.
You meet people who love the Clash, people whose lives were changed by the Sex Pistols, people who go misty eyed over Kate Bush, people who were empowered by Siouxsie Sioux, people who talk about the Beatles for ever but you never find anyone who loves U2. Sure enough you find people who like their records a bit, don’t mind the odd tune, find themselves occasionally distracted by a U2 song but you never meet anyone who had the life changing moment from the band.
Let’s give them their due. They were smart and they worked hard. bloody hard. But that’s not very exciting is it? They were hip enough to take all e best bits of punk and post punk- the melancholic yearning of Joy Division, Jah Wobble’s heavy bass, Jon McGeogh’s genius guitar and the Clash’s rebel rock and reshape it as their own. They could even write a clutch of good songs like ‘I Will Follow’ and ‘One’, but then a whole host of other bands from the Monochrome Set to XTC to Magazine were writing great songs and didn’t get to fill stadiums at the time.
U2 did the spadework. The Clash took America and burned out whilst U2 turned up and worked hard and got the rewards. What they lacked in charisma (Bono is nowhere near as riveting as Joe Strummer or Ian Brown or Sean Ryder or Adam Ant or countless other singers of his generation) they made up for in grinding it out. Granted Bono has a voice that can fill a stadium but so has Ian Mac from the Bunnymen or Pete Wylie but they didn’t work hard enough thus exposing the dark lie at the heart of rock n roll that it’s the plodders that get to the top and not the genius.
People say a lot of things about U2, people cringe at the millionaires against poverty thing and gossip about their finances, that’s another story entirely. We are just bemused by their mega success, perhaps it was the new wave band that wasn’t spiky that saw them through in America, perhaps it was their perceived goody two shoes image, whatever.
U2 managed to turn a few good songs into decades of success whilst Pete Shelly from the Buzzcocks gets ignored by the mainstream. It proves that there is not a god up there or he is a mate of Bono’s – but thats another story entirely.
And as for the film? The idea of it is making me cringe really. One day someone will make a great rock n roll film that really captures what it’s like, Control was the closest yet.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Are you joking me mate? Besides Bono’s whole do as I say and not as I do the worst thing about U2 are their fans. I’m not sure where your from but in North and South America you will struggle do find a band that has more die hard fans then U2.

    “U2 managed to turn a few good songs into decades of success whilst Pete Shelly from the Buzzcocks gets ignored by the mainstream. It proves that there is not a god up there ”

    No such thing as overrated in relation to music. For something to be overrated it must have an objective rating. Stocks can be overrated. Music cannot. Music is just a collection of sounds, our responses to these sounds determines how we rate it.

    If Pete Shelly from the Buzzcocks warranted, the success that you think they deserved they would have achieved if, unfortunately for them few people agree with your assessment.

  2. I think it’s just because the A&R man went to see the wrong band, he went and signed U2 instead of V2… true story.

    PS. The films not half bad and Bono’s hardly in it at all. I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it although, be warned, it could change your view of Bono entirely.


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